Azure Kubernetes Service Free tier and Standard tier
Published Feb 01 2023 03:50 PM 8,341 Views

The growing adoption of containers for workload deployments has seen the emergence of Kubernetes as the preferred container orchestrator tool in the Cloud Native ecosystem. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), the managed Kubernetes offering from Azure, allows customers to offload the operational overhead to Azure, thus letting the user focus primarily on their workloads and business logic. We are seeing two sets of user trends along the Kubernetes adoption curve. First, organizations that are already using containers and/or Kubernetes in their on-premises and cloud environments are looking to AKS to reduce their operational burden and leverage the Azure cloud ecosystem. Secondly, we also see organizations earlier in the adoption cycle that are looking to experiment and discover Kubernetes’ fit for their requirements and organizations’ goals.


To support these customer types, we have always kept the AKS cluster management free with the option to enable a Kubernetes API server uptime SLA. Over time, we have made several under-the-hood AKS control plane improvements to enhance the experience, reliability, and scalability of the uptime SLA enabled clusters, with more features planned in the future.


To better communicate the benefits and use cases for the two cluster management options, today, we are announcing a new Standard tier for AKS which includes the previous standalone uptime SLA feature (previously shown as “Paid” tier in the Azure API) in addition to improved capabilities over the Free tier. With the Standard tier, we hope to help increase customer awareness enabling customers that need guarantees for their API server availability, that run production workloads or scenarios depending heavily on the API Server should seek to leverage the Standard tier.


Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two AKS pricing tiers:


Free tier

Standard tier

When to use this tier?

·       You want to experiment with AKS at no extra cost

·       You are new to AKS and Kubernetes

·       You are running production or mission-critical workloads and need high availability and reliability

·       You need a financially backed SLA

Cluster types supported

·       Development clusters or small-scale testing environments

·       Clusters with fewer than 10 nodes

·       Enterprise-grade or production workloads

·       Clusters between 10 to 5,000 nodes


·       Free cluster management

·       Pay-as-you-go for resources consumed

·       $0.10/cluster/hour for greater scaling and performance support

·       Pay-as-you-go for resources consumed

Feature comparison

·       No uptime SLA

·       Recommended for clusters with fewer than 10 nodes, but may support up to 1,000 nodes

·       Uptime SLA is enabled by default

·       Greater cluster reliability and resources

·       Can support up to 5000 nodes in a cluster


AKS' unique Free tier allows you to only pay for the virtual machines which run your workloads and the associated storage and networking resources consumed, while allowing you to use the AKS cluster management for free. This allows you to deploy unlimited free test clusters to decide if AKS is right for your needs and allows you to configure your dev and test infrastructure with free cluster management before running critical production workloads. The Free tier is recommended for clusters with less than 10 nodes and for experimenting, learning, development, and testing. The Free tier does not include Uptime SLA, cluster scalability, or other features exclusively available on the Standard tier.


The new Standard tier is the recommended cluster management pricing option which comes with greater cluster resources (such as the number of API server instances, etcd resource limits), scalability, and the existing financially-backed uptime SLA support. As a part of the Standard tier, Uptime SLA guarantees 99.95% availability of the Kubernetes API server endpoint for clusters that use Availability Zones, and 99.9% of availability for clusters that don't use Availability Zones. The Standard tier also includes additional features such as support for up to 5000 nodes per cluster and API server autoscaling. The Standard tier costs $0.10 per cluster per hour, which remains the same as the previous standalone Uptime SLA feature.


While creating a new AKS cluster in the Azure Portal, you can go to Create Kubernetes Cluster tab and select the “AKS pricing tier” option and select the pricing tier that best fits your workload’s need.




We strongly recommend all production workloads use the Standard tier to maximize your cluster availability, scalability, and to get the best that AKS has to offer. We are also planning other enhancements and features that may exclusively be available for AKS clusters on the Standard tier only.

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Last update:
‎Feb 14 2023 05:07 PM
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